NPC Verdict: Disappointing Queen’s Speech fails those in desperate need now
Comment by Jan Shortt, General Secretary, National Pensioners’ Convention
In the middle of one of the worst cost-of-living crises in living memory the government had a real chance to step up and help those most affected – our oldest and poorest. But today they failed, showing little compassion for the immediate struggles of vulnerable people.
The National Pensioners’ Convention had hoped the Queen’s Speech at the State Opening of Parliament today (Tuesday, 10th May) would contain measures to provide real, and urgent financial assistance to those overwhelmed by inflationary prices, and a more than doubling of energy bills.
Instead, they outlined legislation promising longer term changes, which frankly will not help those having to choose between buying food or paying their rent or energy bills right now.
People on low and fixed incomes pay a much higher proportion of their income on essentials – there is no way they can find the extra money when costs rise so rapidly.
Spiralling energy costs, rocketing inflation and a succession of government policies which have lowered the real value of pensions and benefits, mean millions more face poverty in the coming months. It is a disaster that is only set to get worse as we approach autumn and another round of energy hikes.
But it is not just government’s lack of provision for the cost-of-living crisis. The NPC has concerns about what they have promised – they are outlined below:
Public Order – we are concerned that this will prevent democratic protest by older people in circumstances where government policy undermines the dignity and respect for pensioners. It also must take account of the Bill of Rights.
Conversion therapy – we disagree with the fact that the ban does not cover transgender and our LGBT working party will be asking for the government to meet with us to listen to our members concerns.
Energy Security Bill – long term on sustainable energy – been ongoing for years with no progress. What about the poverty and deprivation now?
Mental Health Bill – not before time but we need to digest whether it will address the amount of funding needed to make it work.
Bill of Rights – we will monitor. The rights of older people have been seriously eroded in recent years and we will be looking for this to be tackled in any new legislation,
Financial Services Bill – at last, legislation to give access to cash. However, there is still the issue of banks already closed on high streets. We need to know how the government will support communities where there are no banks and very little transport to get to the nearest one.
Renters Bill – again long overdue, as an increasing number of older people are among those having to rent in the private sector. Along with the Social Housing Regulation Bill, we would hope to see much needed decent homes standards applied across the board.
On-Line Harms Bill – needs to put more emphasis on the responsibilities of platform providers who make profit from their services; compensation for those scammed direct from platform providers and more funding to deal with scammers.
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